Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is opening new doors in the evaluation and treatment of breast cancer.
MRI is a non-invasive way to image the breasts. Unlike mammography, MRI does not use any radiation. Instead, MRI uses a powerful magnetic field, radiofrequency pulses and a computer to produce images of the breast. MRI provides a 10 to 100 times greater contrast between breast tissues than an X-ray, enabling the radiologist to see the inside breast tissue side-to-side, front-to back, and top-to-bottom.
Breast MRI has unquestionable value in screening women at high risk for breast cancer. In several studies, the sensitivity of breast MRI has actually approached 100 percent, compared to 30 to 59 percent for mammography.
Breast MRI has become an essential component of breast imaging. It now performs a vital role in the investigation of breast cancer, as well as in screening women at high risk for developing breast cancer.
… it has the highest sensitivity for detecting breast cancer of any clinical breast imaging tool available.
Source: CAR Practice Guidelines and Technical Standards for Breast Imaging and Intervention, Canadian Association of Radiologists, September 29, 2012. View PDF
MRI screening was shown to be more sensitive than mammography for the detection of breast cancer. In several studies, the sensitivity of breast MRI has actually approached 100 percent, compared to 30 to 59 percent for mammography.
Source: Effectiveness of magnetic resonance imaging screening for women at high risk of breast cancer, Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technology in Health (2007). View PDF
Our highly trained registered MRI Technologists will perform your breast MRI. Following the scan, our NB board-certified radiologists will analyze your MRI images and prepare a detailed report.
A written diagnostic report will be sent to your referring physician and treating clinicians for consultation and review. Your physician will discuss diagnostic and pathologic assessment findings and the next steps with you.
Breast MRI is recommended for screening women who are at high risk for breast cancer, usually due to a strong family history and/or a mutation in genes such as BRCA1 or BRCA2. Individuals that are considered high-risk, should have breast MRI in addition to annual mammograms.
Studies have shown that breast MRI screening can detect small cancers sometimes missed by clinical breast exams and mammography. Breast MRI is not a perfect tool. Although it is generally considered more sensitive for picking up breast cancer than mammography, it also can miss some cancers that would be detected by mammography. For example, MRI cannot detect tiny calcium deposits that can sometimes indicate early breast cancer. These are only seen on a mammogram.
For this reason, breast MRI is recommended only as a supplement to regular breast health care – annual exam by primary care provider, monthly self-exam, and regular mammogram. It is not a replacement or alternative to mammography.
The procedure begins with a requisition from your physician or treating clinicians.
How should I prepare for the procedure?
There is very little preparation required for a Breast MRI. The timing of the study should be closely linked to the menstrual cycle for women who are premenopausal. The best time to perform a Breast MRI is between days 6 and 14 of your menstrual cycle (day one is the day that your period arrives). For patients who are postmenopausal, or those with a new diagnosis of breast cancer, the examination can be performed at any time. For those who are perimenopausal, it is optimal to wait for the next cycle to start, and schedule between days 6 and 14. If the menses occur only rarely, then the examination can be scheduled at any time with the understanding that residual hormonal activity can render the examination difficult to interpret.
The MRI Technologist will explain the procedure to you and offer the opportunity to ask any questions that you might have about the procedure.
If your procedure involves the use of contrast, you will be asked to sign a consent form that gives permission to do the procedure. Read the form carefully and ask questions if something is not clear.
What happens during the procedure?
Generally, a breast MRI follows this process:
While the MRI procedure itself causes no pain, having to lie still for the length of the procedure might cause some discomfort or pain, particularly in the case of a recent injury or invasive procedure such as surgery. The technologist will use all possible comfort measures and complete the procedure as quickly as possible to minimize any discomfort or pain.
What should I expect after the procedure?
You should move slowly when getting up from the scanner table to avoid any dizziness or light-headedness from lying prone for the length of the procedure.
If any sedatives were taken for the procedure, you may be required to rest until the sedatives have worn off. You will also need to avoid driving.
If contrast was used during your procedure, you may be monitored for a period of time for any side effects or reactions to the contrast, such as itching, swelling, rash, or difficulty breathing.
If you notice any pain, redness, and/or swelling at the IV site after you return home following your procedure, you should notify your health care provider, as this could indicate an infection or other type of reaction.
Nursing mothers may choose not to breastfeed for 12 to 24 hours after a breast MRI with contrast.
Generally, there is no special type of care required after a MRI scan of the breasts. You may resume your usual diet and activities, unless your health care provider advises you differently.
A radiologist will analyze the images and provide a report to your health care provider within 10 business days.
Your health care provider may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.
Take a moment to learn more about the imaging exam that matters to you.